Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Monday that it has dismantled a military corruption ring that granted early retirements for bribes.
The announcement comes amid a flurry of National Army corruption allegations that in the past two months has cost the jobs of at least five top generals and led to the arrest of the army’s former second-in-command.
The alleged corruption ring revealed on Monday consisted of 14 members of the military.
The administrative officials allowed some 500 professional soldiers and navy officials to retire before fulfilling their duty in exchange for payments between $1,200 (COP4 million)) and $1,400 (COP5 million), according to newspaper El Espectador.
The scheme is similar to one allegedly carried out by 12 military officials who were arrested. This alleged corruption ring falsified soldiers’ credentials to allow them to be transferred to comfortable positions, for example in the public relations department or the military hospital.
Reports on corruption by administrative officials and top army commanders have spiked after President Ivan Duque promoted General Nicasio Martinez to National Army commander in December last year.
Until then, the current commander was the army’s inspector, the highest official in charge in combating corruption within the institution.
The recent scandals have infuriated former commanders who urged the current commanders of the armed forces to “restore” “the institutional honor” in a letter last week.
Martinez responded that “we will be forceful in combating corruption” after which media and prosecutors discovered even more corruption scandals, including cases in which the army chief is implicated.
The rampant corruption is not just causing indignation among former commanders. Also within the army’s command structure and among soldiers there reportedly is frustration about the recent promotions of allegedly corrupt commanders at the expense of honorable commanders.
Evidence suggests Martinez and some of the other commanders allegedly involved in corruption embarked on a “witch hunt” for the whitleblowers who have been leaking human rights concerns and corruption cases to the press rather than trying to root out corruption.